Sadly, cancer plagues our canine companions just as it does us humans. Also like in people, dogs can suffer from many different types of cancer. Some of the most common types affecting dogs include lymphoma (originating in white blood cells called lymphocytes), mast cell tumors (originating in these immune system cells), osteosarcoma (a bone cancer), melanoma/oral melanoma (a skin cancer), hemangiosarcoma (originating in the endothelium, the tissue that lines the inside of blood vessels), mammary gland (breast) cancer, and thyroid carcinoma.
Early Detection Is Key
Sometimes, cancer in dogs is curable. Other times, it can’t be eliminated, but it can be successfully managed for the long term. Sometimes, there’s really nothing effective to be done.
One crucial factor in most cases is the cancer staging. Early detection and intervention very often makes a huge difference in the treatment options and outcomes. In fact, while cancer is the number one cause of death in dogs over the age of 10, half of cancers are curable when caught early enough.
It’s highly unlikely any assistance dog with cancer and undergoing any sort of cancer treatment would be able to continue her work, but that doesn’t mean she can’t enjoy her retirement years. Treatments might include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, or often a combination of more than one of these.
That’s why familiarizing yourself with the common signs and symptoms of cancer in dogs is so important. Some of the warning signs are noticeable just from paying attention to your hearing, guide, or service dog’s behavior. Others can be found by staying attentive during basic dog grooming procedures and regularly conducting home health exams of your assistance dog.
Also, take your dog in for two wellness checkups per year. This is the single best way to protect your service, hearing, or guide dog’s health.
Signs and Symptoms of Canine Cancer
- Lumps or bumps on or beneath the skin
- Swelling that doesn’t go away or continues growing
- Changes to the appearance or texture of the skin or gums
- Swollen lymph nodes
- A wound or sores that won’t heal
- Decreased stamina
- Loss of appetite
- Trouble eating or swallowing
- Breathing problems
- Respiratory tract issues like coughing or wheezing
- Difficulty urinating or defecating
- Persistent vomiting or diarrhea
- Unexplained and/or rapid weight loss
- Abnormal bleeding
- Discharge from any orifice
- Strong, unusual body odor, rectal odor, or bad breath
- Behavioral changes
If You Notice Signs
Any of these signs and symptoms are cause for a prompt visit to your veterinarian. Don’t panic, though, or automatically assume the worst; any of these can point to a variety of health concerns, including plenty that are relatively harmless. And again, with early detection, many cases of canine cancer are entirely treatable.
If Your Assistance Dog Is Diagnosed with Cancer
Receiving a cancer diagnosis for your hearing, guide, or service dog is terrifying. Keep in mind that many cases are entirely treatable. We’ve written more about what to expect and how to proceed here.